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EU awards Health -eLife as project of the month
The European Union awarded project of the month status to the Health-eLife project, which aims to promote the deployment of network-based services across Europe.

The project supported by the EU eTen initiative, uses doc@HOME technology, from UK-based telehealth services firm Docobo, that enables health providers to manage patients with terminal diseases in their own homes, initially for heart disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. The system provides patient information in a format compliant to HL7 messaging standards and is therefore compatible with current developments in Electronic Patient Record and existing primary and secondary care healthcare computing systems. The system works by staff keeping track of their patient’s progress and sending them messages when they need to communicate with their patients.

In this project, two of the products of Docobo, viz., the HealthHUB handheld patient monitoring device, and the web-based doc@HOME system are being used. The two products are designed to work together in helping clinicians and nurses monitor the health status of their patients, without having to hospitalise these patients, since with these devices authorised general practitioners, clini-cians and nurses can access their patient information at any time and from any location, using their secure access codes.

EU eTen spokesperson said, “The focus of Health-eLife is the exploration of implementation requirements for the deployment of the new doc@HOME Tele-Health service and the preparation of a business plan to attract investors and formalise deployment.”

e-Health records gets a push by the US government
Sate governments in the United States are promoting the use of electronic health records in order to give a boost to the use of information technology in the field of medicine so that doctors statewide can have access to patient records. Already, these governments have started organising task forces of hospitals, doctors, insurers and other groups to develop plans for such regional systems.

Federal government’s call in 2004 to develop electronic patient records throughout the United States has led to many state governments taking up e-Health records initiative. 38 states are now participating in statewide or community discussions, while 21 of them are leading the coordination of efforts.

However, most of such endeavours are in the initial stage, with only plans for a technology system being ready. The implementation of these plans will take time, money and effort. “The dollars continue to be the major limiting factor,” said Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer, chairman and chief executive of the Medsphere Systems Corporation, a California health information technology company that sells electronic health records using an open-source platform, known as OpenVista. Many of the nation’s hospitals do not even have the money to bring the systems to their own institutions, he said. At the same time, health experts and officials say that allowing hospitals to choose their own programme would present a major challenge in creating a seamless statewide system. If a state is to capture economic benefits of electronic health records — including reductions in medical errors and duplication of tests — doctors treating patients will need access to patients’ records no matter where the patient approaches.

Common IT system for patient records in Singapore
A programme to help general practitioners manage patient health records and related information through a common IT system was launched by the Singapore government. This common IT system, also known as the integrated clinic management system, is envisaged as a four years programme with an investment of around USD 9.4 million. Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the country’s infocomm regulator, reported this.

Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Health, said, “Using IT can bring important new benefits to patients—real-time access to timely and accurate patient information will help doctors provide better care to patients.”

The system became operational from 1st of October, making it possible for general practitioner’s (GP) from 1,400 clinics in the country to update and retrieve their patients’ health records through this new system. The integrated clinic management system will be developed by Singapore-based companies Crimson-Logic and Frontline Technologies. Previously, medical practitioners and small GP groups worked on different systems to process different processes.

IDA’s chief executive Chan Yeng Kit, pointed that, “With more than 80 percent of the primary healthcare sector managed by GPs, the integrated clinic management system will form a fundamental building block of an infocomm-enabled personalised healthcare delivery system.”

Eliza, a friendly robot to attend sick children
Telemedicine re-searchers of  University of Queensland in Australia  are using a robot by the name of Eliza to bridge the distances and to improve the delivery of specialist medical care.

Developed by university’s Centre for Online Health – a world leader in telemedicine research – Eliza, has already began its work at Mt. Isa Hospital this week. The wireless robots can be wheeled to the bedside of sick children for video-link consultations with Brisbane specialists, reducing the need for local doctors or families to travel to the city for specialist care. A built-in camera and microphone enables the specialist to see and speak with the child.

The robot project is an extension of the telepaediatric research led by the Centre for Online Health, in collaboration with the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.

Nigeria government coming up with national e-Health policy
The Nigerian government will soon have a national e-Health policy, to be able to fulfill the goal of using ICT in area of not only education and food security but also for health care of its citizens. This was stated by the President Olusegun Obasanjo at the State House with an eight-member delegation of the Society for Telemedicine and e-Health in Nigeria.

At the same time, President Obasanjo urged the members of the Society to give more attention to e-Health infrastructure and training of personnel so as to ensure the successful implementation of the policy.

Lauding President’s reformative measu-res for the healthcare system, Dr. Olajide Adebola, President of the Society remar-ked that, “e-Health is an option for Nigeria in order to remedy the human resource for health crisis, failing health systems and facilities, inaccessibility and non-affordability of existing services to the poor and vulnerable in the rural areas.”

Digital imaging fast replacing X-rays in England
The digital way of diagnosing fractures is gaining acceptance and replacing the previous system of film-based X-rays in England. More than half of the health clinics have switched over to this digital system, called the Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) that can send images of broken bones and fractured ribs instantly to different clinics.

The National Health Service (NHS) plans to invest 1.86 billion USD through 2014 in the PACS project. Although the PACS project is criticised for being expensive and having procurement problems, it has proved to be a successful NHS initiative to modernise its IT system.

PACS eliminates film and developing costs, the NHS said. Images are viewed on a computer screen, also eliminating lightboxes and microfiche readers, the NHS said. The system has also reduced the number of lost X-rays, since they are securely stored on the network.

Citizens too are finding PACS as very beneficial as it does away with the treatment delays while images were physically sent to specialists.

Project to promote e-Health among nurses
A Nurse Prescribing Project is being implemented in Devon and Greater Manchester in UK to investigate how IT could be used ‘to support prescribing by nurses and improve patient safety, clinical governance and every day communication’. The project will inform the development of national nurse prescribing standards.

This is a six-month-long project, and a part of the National Health Services (NHS) Connecting for Health’s Nursing Development Programme. The project will look at how current processes can be developed to support prescribing practice from a professional standards and information technology viewpoint. The project began at East Devon Primary Care Trust and Bolton Primary Care Trust on 1st September and will initially consider how nurses currently prescribe and how technology could improve this in future.

Doctors yet to fully accept e-Records
Maintaining electronic records for patients is yet to be fully adopted by doctors, according to a study by David Blumenthal, from the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The study found that less than 1 in 10 doctors use electronic records in the most effective way.

The study was conducted in wake of President Bush setting a goal for most Americans to be covered by electronic health records by 2014. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the research.

The e-Health records entail collecting patient information, displaying test results, helping doctors make treatment decisions and allowing health-care providers to document prescriptions and medical orders electronically. Advocates, including the pharmaceutical and technology industries, argue that standardised electronic records that can be shared among care providers would improve patient care, reduce errors as also curb unnecessary tests and paperwork. But the concept is controversial among many privacy advocates, who fear that sensitive personal information could be acciden-tally compromised or exploited by hackers, companies or the government.

The study revealed that about only one in four doctors use some form of electronic health records. On the contrary, it was also found that an increasing number of doctors are adopting electronic record systems every year. Another important finding is that doctors practicing alone or with one other doctor were much less likely to use the e-Health records. “That is significant because half of all doctors in the United States practice in such settings”, said Ashish Jha, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who led the study.

In view of the fact that till date, there has been little hard data on electronic-record use and why and where the technology has been slow to catch on, Blumenthal study is a ‘seminal report’ that could serve as an important annual benchmark, said Karen M. Bell, Director of the Office of Health IT Adoption in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Citizen participation in e-Health urged
The participation of citizens is a must in national discourse on e-Health policy to meet out the goal of promoting ICT in healthcare. The European Health Telematics Association (EHTEL), a key group of European informatics professionals, pointed this out.

“Currently, most discussions about the development of e-Health systems happens between the developers and national institutions where there is very little interaction between those organisations and the patient,” according to the report on home care by the EHTEL, presented at the World of Health IT conference in Geneva, recently.

Also, the organisations empanelled to advise health ministries on issues of personal health and national healthcare priorities look beyond only patients with chronic illnesses instead of being inclusive.

EHTEL seeks the establishment of an independent, pan-European corporation going beyond international differences in reimbursement and pricing mecha-nisms, semantic standards, branding and compo-sition of medicines, and language.

Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winter-bourne, representing Southeast England, called for personalised health monitoring and care a “development of great potential.” “Improving ICT infrastructure must become a top priority, and policies must reflect this,” Baroness Nicholson said, adding that policy-makers ought to link the health, and general ICT and telecommunications sectors within their own countries.

e-Prescriptions to minimise misuse of medical prescription
The electronic prescription not only saves time and money, but can reduce abuse of prescription medication, a study by Concord University (US) reports.

The study recommends that West
Virginia should take steps to have an ‘e-Prescriptions’ pilot programme for 350 to 500 doctors in place at the earliest.

The initiative will lead to savings of around 184 million USD, as per the study. The system envisioned by the study would give doctors and pharmacists access to information about a patient’s prescriptions — who’s prescribed the medication, what dosage it’s for, whether they’re on any other medication, and what pharmacies have filled the prescrip-tion. The most apparent benefit of the system is that it reduces the risk of error in filling prescriptions that sometimes occurs when a pharmacist tries to read a doctor’s handwriting, researchers say.

“The feeling is that it’s easier to track when it’s all electronic,” said Darla Wise, one of the two Concord researchers who compiled the study, released in September. “With a system like this, you can track if medication has been prescri-bed by multiple doctors or if it’s been filled by multiple pharmacies, whether they’re in the same chain or not,” she concurred.

Pakistan Minister invites Japanese companies
The State Minister for Information Technology of Pakistan, Ishaq Khakwani invited the Japanese companies to invest in their telemedicine and telecommuni-cation sector.  Both these sectors have tremendous scope for growth, according to Khakwani, who said this to a six members delegation of the Marubeni Corporation of Japan.

The groundwork for the sector has already begun with the government utilising all its available resources to ensure penetration of broadband services across the country and efforts are on to introduce telemedicine in areas with inadequate health services.

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